Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Temporary extensions of certain FOIA deadlines to facilitate
COVID-19 emergency response efforts
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease that can result in serious illness or death. It is caused by a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans and easily spread from person to person. There is currently no approved vaccine or antiviral treatment for this disease.
On March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. On that same day, I issued Executive Order 2020-4. This order declared a state of emergency across the state of Michigan under section 1 of article 5 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Emergency Management Act, 1976 PA 390, as amended, MCL 30.401-.421, and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, 1945 PA 302, as amended, MCL 10.31-.33.
In the three weeks that followed, the virus spread across Michigan, bringing deaths in the hundreds, confirmed cases in the thousands, and deep disruption to this state’s economy, homes, and educational, civic, social, and religious institutions. In response to the widespread and severe health, economic, and social harms posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I issued Executive Order 2020-33 on April 1, 2020. This order expanded on Executive Order 2020-4 and declared both a state of emergency and a state of disaster across the state of Michigan under section 1 of article 5 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Emergency Management Act, and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945.
The Emergency Management Act vests the governor with broad powers and duties to “cop[e] with dangers to this state or the people of this state presented by a disaster or emergency,” which the governor may implement through “executive orders, proclamations, and directives having the force and effect of law.” MCL 30.403(1)-(2). Similarly, the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 provides that, after declaring a state of emergency, “the governor may promulgate reasonable orders, rules, and regulations as he or she considers necessary to protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation within the affected area under control.” MCL 10.31(1).
To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, protect the public health, and provide essential protections to vulnerable Michiganders, it is crucial that all Michiganders limit in-person contact to the fullest extent possible. This includes practicing social distancing and restricting in-person work and interaction to only that which is strictly necessary. At the same time, and as memorialized by Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 1976 PA 442, as amended, MCL 15.231 et seq., it remains the public policy of this state—and a priority of my administration—that Michiganders have access to “full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees,” so that they “may fully participate in the democratic process.” MCL 15.231(2). To balance this core priority with the steep and urgent demands posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reasonable and necessary to provide limited and temporary extensions of certain FOIA deadlines, so that Michiganders may remain informed and involved in their government during this unprecedented crisis without unduly compromising the health and safety of this state and its residents.
Acting under the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and Michigan law, I order the following:
Given under my hand and the Great Seal of the State of Michigan.